HC Deb 27 November 1951 vol 494 cc1112-4
57. Mr. Jay

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will now give details of the economies recently announced as to be made in national and local expenditure.

Sir A. Salter

Not yet, Sir.

Mr. Jay

In view of the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman last week and the anxiety which that has caused, particularly amongst local authorities, cannot the right hon. Gentleman at least repeat the assurance, which we had constantly from the leaders of his party during the Election, that no far-reaching cuts in social service expenditure are contemplated by the Government.

Sir A. Salter

I can only repeat what my right hon. Friend said the other day: that he cannot give an answer on detailed economies until after our review of the draft Estimates is completed.

Mr. Jay

Why cannot the right hon. Gentleman at least repeat the assurances given during the General Election? Does he not realise that if he refuses to repeat those assurances today, that amounts to a repudiation of them?

Sir A. Salter

I said the other day that there would have to be important economies—[HON. MEMBERS: "Great and grave."]—in current expenditure. I do not know of any inconsistency between that statement and anything that has been said so far by my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Hugh Gaitskell

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether or not a definite Government decision has been taken to make great and grave savings in expenditure, and if that is the case will he, at least, give us some idea of the scale of the economies contemplated?

Sir A. Salter

I cannot go beyond what has already been said: that it is a Government decision that there should be important economies. [HON. MEMBERS: "Great and grave."] As my right hon. Friend said the other day, having announced that general policy it would be a sign of levity to attempt to produce at this moment a detailed programme, which, obviously, requires consultation and co-operation.

Colonel Alan Gomme-Duncan

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the statements of the former Chancellor of the Exchequer and his Financial Secretaries are only a smokescreen to hide what they did not do?

Mr. Richard Adams

How was the right hon. Gentleman able to announce on Friday that there were to be great and grave economies if he did not know what those economies were going to be?

Sir A. Salter

On general policy, all important economy must, obviously, precede and set the standard for the working out of a detailed programme of economy.

Captain Waterhouse

Is it not a fact that for six years right hon. Gentlemen opposite brought in no economies whatever, whereas the present Government are starting to bring them in within six weeks?